Sony Alpha 7S Review
The a7S is the third model in Sony's full-frame mirrorless lineup, a 12MP camera that puts as much emphasis on its movie capture capabilities as its still image prowess. While the a7S is a capable still shooter, Sony has emphasized that its real focus (no pun intended) is videography.
The first thing you need to know about the a7S is that it can record 1080p footage internally or be used to output 4K video to an external recorder. The internal 1080p footage is recorded using the XAVC S format, a more consumer-friendly version of Sony's XAVC system. This is the first of the company's cameras to use the format, which frees the camera from the bitrate restrictions of the AVCHD standard.
However, while the a7S's body exactly resembles its original 24 and 36MP sister models, the a7 and a7R (the a7 II's design is slightly different), it includes a whole raft of features and tools to support the videographer. These include the low contrast S-Log2 tone curve that allows more of the camera's dynamic range to be fitted into its video files and the option to record time code. Photographers more interested in stills may wish to note that most of these video features have subsequently been included in the newer a7 II, which also features revised ergonomics and in-body image stabilization.
- 12MP full-frame EXMOR CMOS sensor
- Focuses at light levels to -4EV
- 1080 footage at up to 50Mbps (XAVC S)
- Extensive movie-focused capture options: S-Log2, Black Level, time code
- Video ISO Range 100 - 409,600
- Uncompressed 4:2:2 Full HD and 4K video output over HDMI
- 2.36M dot OLED viewfinder
- Mic and headphone sockets
- 720/120p option for slow-mo capture
- Wi-Fi with NFC
DSLRs capable of shooting HD video have existed for a little under six years. Prior to the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, which demonstrated that you could get near-professional quality video from a stills camera, video seemed to be included on cameras primarily to satisfy a checkbox on the marketing spec sheet. It has subsequently become a critical feature for many users.
For the most part, however, modern DSLRs and mirroless cameras don't offer much support for their video features. The technical capability is there, but even on cameras where a decent level of manual control is provided, tools such as focus peaking and zebra patterhsn that have been standard on dedicated video cameras for many years are often missing. This extends even to cameras such as the Canon 5D Mark II and Nikon D800, whose respective manufacturers are happy to promote video features despite the fact that support for actually using video is somewhat lacking. Canon has subsequently upped its game with the EOS 5D Mark III and the lessons it's learning from the development of its Cinema EOS line, but in general video is promoted much better than it's supported.
The Sony a7S steps around these pitfalls, offering both focus peaking and zebra highlight warnings to help videographers get footage that lives up to the cameras' capture capabilities (you can, however, purchase external monitors that can show the same information on other cameras). They also have add-on accessories available to allow use of industry-standard audio or video connections.
Another shortcoming of many 'HDSLR's is that they capture the relatively low resolutions of video by only sampling 'stripes' of their sensors - a process that's become known as line-skipping. This leads to lower vertical resolution in the video, along with a greater risk of moiré. The a7S avoids this by reading out its entire sensor thirty times per second. And, because its sensor appears to have been designed with video in mind, it's able to intelligently downscale this output into cleaner, more detailed video.
However, just because they go to unusual lengths to accommodate the videographer, this doesn't mean any compromises have been made to the feature sets they offer the stills shooter. Noticeably, the Sony offers the same handling and controls as its more stills orientated a7 and a7R models.
Here's how the a7S sits in Sony's a7 lineup:
|Sony a7S||Sony a7 II||Sony a7R|
|Sensor specifications||12MP full-frame||24MP full-frame||36MP full-frame|
|Video formats||XAVC S, AVCHD, MP4||XAVC S, AVCHD, MP4||XAVC S, AVCHD|
|Highest bitrate||50Mbps (1080p)||50Mbps (1080p)||28Mbps (1080p)|
|ISO Range (Stills)
Standard / Expanded
|100 - 102,400
50 - 409,600
|100 - 25,600
50 - 25,600
|100 - 25,600
50 - 25,600
|ISO Range (Movies)||200 - 102,400
200 - 409,600
|200 - 25,600||200 - 25,600|
|Image Stabilization||In-lens only||In-body||In-lens only|
|S-Log2 picture profile||Yes||Yes||No|
|Electronic first curtain shutter||Yes||Yes||No|
|Battery life (CIPA)||360||350||340|
With card readers disappearing from MacBooks, USB-C card readers are now a necessity. Macworld's helpful guide compares five models and decodes the current mess of card speeds and certifications.
A Sony a7S II mounted on the outside of the ISS' Japanese Experiment Module (KIBO) for the last seven months has sent back some impressive 4K video and stills.
A Federal judge has refused to throw out a copyright case against controversial artist Richard Prince, who used an image by photographer Donald Graham in an exhibition.
Sony has teased its customers with news of an upcoming announcement: it will soon take the wraps off a new CineAlta motion picture camera, one sporting a 36x24mm sensor.
QuikStories is integrated into the latest version of the GoPro app and automatically creates 'stories' using the video clips you've shot during a day.
Journalists photographing a protest in the US Capitol building claim they were told by Capitol Police to delete photos and videos of arrests.
The Meizu Pro 7 Plus secondary display can be used for music playback, date and weather-related information, or as viewfinder when taking selfies with the rear cameras.
Nikon is marking its 100th anniversary in many ways, including the creation of a new scholarship program for 'future visual creators' in the USA and Canada.
Take one Digital ELPH (or IXUS), rotate it vertically, add a fully articulating LCD and a lens with a camcorder-like focal length, and what do you get? Why, the Canon PowerShot TX1, of course. In this week's Throwback Thursday we revisit Canon's one-of-a-kind hybrid stills/video camera.
Just in case there was any doubt in your mind, here's the definitive video proof that yes, a $50,000 cinema camera beats the pants off a $50 camcorder in a side-by-side test.
Photographers who fly frequently in the US may want to finally invest in that TSA Pre-check status: in standard security lines, cameras and all other electronics larger than a smartphone will need to be placed in a separate bin for screening.
Images have appeared which claim to show Nikon's forthcoming D850 DSLR, the development of which was announced this week. If genuine, the pictures indicate that the D850 will offer illuminated controls and a tilting LCD screen, but no built-in flash.
To celebrate the Daguerreotype Achromat 2.9/64 lens' successful Kickstarter campaign, Lomography has announced a chrome-plated version of the lens in Nikon and Canon DSLR mounts.
Nikon just released four new firmware updates, adding features and fixing bugs in the D600, D610, D750 and the KeyMission 80.
It probably hasn't made your landscape photography bucket list just yet, but there's a good reason to visit Idaho. Here are 9 must-visit locations in this beautiful state.
Oops... Adobe accidentally leaked their unfinished Lightroom-powered cloud-based photo editor 'Project Nimbus' to some Creative Cloud users yesterday.
Storm chaser and award-winning photographer Mike Oblinski just released his latest time-lapse, and it is absolutely stunning.
Looking to level up your video capture capabilities without buying a whole new camera? Blackmagic's Video Assist 4K is well worth considering, despite a few flaws and its lack of 4K/60p support.
We're big fans of Fujifilm's fast-growing GFX system, and the GF 110mm F2 lens is no exception. Positioned as the system's classic portrait lens, its optics are just as impressive with non-human subjects as well.
Nikon turns 100 years old today, and the company is celebrating with a wacky music video, some tributes to its history, and a new vision presented by president Kazuo Ushida.
Phottix just released the Premio Parabolic Umbrellas series, replacing their Para-Pro line with a stronger, deeper and better made set of parabolic umbrellas.
The Moto Z2 is Motorola's first dual-camera smartphone and, compared to its predecessor, comes with a number of improvements and new camera features.
Researchers at Stanford have revealed a new '4D camera system' built for robots. The system is based on the same light field tech that allowed Lytro cameras to refocus images after they were taken.
If you want 'beautiful rendition' from your lenses, follow this simple rule: only buy classic low-element prime lenses with lead glass elements—everything else is junk.
In an interview with CNBC, Leica Chairman Andreas Kaufmann said he dreams of a 'true Leica phone,' and hinted at what's next for the Leica and Huawei partnership.
Wildlife and nature photographer Peter Mather tells the story behind this exceptional shot of a mama grizzly and her cub searching for salmon in Yukon, Canada.
Popular YouTube channel TastyTuts has put together this 33-video Beginner's Guide to Adobe Photoshop—a godsend for anybody who wants to learn Photoshop from scratch.
The long anticipated replacement for the popular Rode VideoMic Pro is almost ready for shipping. The price of the upgraded VideoMic Pro+ will be £290/$300 when it goes on sale in mid-August.
A new iOS app called Explorest wants to help you find new locations to shoot. It's limited to Singapore for now, but the app is packed full of useful location scouting features.
Nikon's D850 development announcement is extremely light on details, so we assembled a wish list of upgrades and features we'd love to see.